The great, great conductor Claudio Abbado died yesterday at the age of 80.
Chicago audiences will remember him as the CSO's principle guest conductor in the 80s. A tireless nurturer of young musicians, he founded several youth orchestras: the European Union Youth Orchestra, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (which Bonnie and I once had the pleasure of hearing at the Edinburgh Festival) and the Bologna-based Orchestra Mozart.
NPR's Fred Plotkin, whose books I regularly recommend in my opera classes, offers a very personal tribute that's clearly decades in the making. Recounting personal experiences with Abbado in rehearsal at La Scala, he tells us:
Anyone who worked with him remembers his disarming smile, one that evinced his love of music and for his fellow humans, especially young people. He also had amazing eyes and once said, “you can do much with your eyes, in music and in life." With those eyes he communicated love for music and for musicians. He knew every score from memory so, musicians always remarked, he could spend more time looking at them and communicating more deeply with them.
NPR offers a more standard bio here, and ClassicalFM has a roundup of audio reminisences.
To see Abbado in action, the Berliner Philharmoniker has several free Abbado concerts you can stream online (registration required). Included, among other things, are the Brahms Requiem and the complete Beethoven Symphonies.